Some reflections on our 1st year of retirement, which began on Jan 1, 2023:
Although everything went pretty much as planned, the biggest surprise was the strange psychological feeling that it was too good to be true, and we might get caught – sort of like playing hooky from high school, and the principal would soon catch us and send us to detention… Previously our long working careers programmed us to be “productive”, and always be working on something. We are headed to Cost del Sol, in Spain in 2024.
The first six months we travelled as snowbirds from Canada and stayed in the Playa del Carmen area of Mexico for 5 months, then various places in Panama for a month. It was nice being able to have nothing planned when we start each day, and then plan do to maybe one thing that day, or go to the beach. In a 10 day working vacation, I was always focused on cramming as much sight seeing into the day – so the retired vacation is much more relaxing. Costs were kept down by staying in monthly rentals as opposed to high priced resorts. Although our aim was to live more like locals, buying and eating local groceries it was hard to break the “dining out” habit. The Panama trip was a surprise addition when we were wanting to go beyond Mexico. Read more about Panama here.
Travel Medical Insurance was a necessary evil, which fortunately we did not need to use this time. We learned not to visit the doctor just before the snowbird trip, because changes put the insurance premiums up.
Shutdown Canada: It was pretty easy to shutdown our Canadian apartment, to minimize the costs while away, and had our kids warm up the vehicles periodically to keep them from seizing up. Suspended auto insurance, cable TV and internet, turned off power. All bills are emailed.
We switched our Canadian phone number to be a $30/mo. “world phone” with unlimited data, text messages and voice anywhere in the world with Fonus. Read more here. Our friends and family just phone our normal Canadian number, as do banking and other two factor authentications.
Currency and Banking
We use the “Wise” multicurrency VISA card and their currency exchange system to pay bills by email. It worked very well for both Mexico and Canada, and should for our next trip to Spain. Their prepaid Visa card helps to eliminate / minimized ATM fees, by allowing you to keep currency in various pots. You can convert money between the pots using the current “google” currency exchange rates, without the hidden surcharges the normal credit cards use.
We used a Retirement Income Planning (RIP) tool, designed for Canadian tax rules, to help us ensure our Income and Investments will last us until we are 100 years old. Our basic approach is to cover our standard “downsized” lifestyle with our Canadian government pensions (CPP/OAS), combined with similar monthly dividend income from our investments. Then we have a separate budget for our travel “fun-money”, which we expect to last about 10 years. Our investments are largely self directed, with some occasional “free” advice from our Royal Bank investment advisor. The covid losses have largely been recovered over the past year.
Return to Canada / Volunteering
The biggest adjustment occurred when we returned to Canada after the 6 month snowbird season. The retirement reality was more apparent when we were in home turf, and spending time at the summer cottage. We rented an RV and took a trip to Ontario to visit family.
Do you have more money or more time?
Accepting that we have lots of time now, we started to focus more on ways to feel productive, that don’t involve earning or spending money. Investigating “volunteer” activities, I realized my skills are more in the technology realm, so I found lots of opportunities easily.
I started with more detailed Family Tree (Genealogy) research which turned up some “Royalty” ancestors. I particularly wanted to ensure our kids have this information for when I am gone, so I moved my files to a “free” online service.
My HAM Radio interest, spawned some volunteer training related to Emergency Measures Operations (EMO) in our area. I also find it enjoyable to fill in some of my day as a Wikipedia Editor, especially in their Travel Guide sister site WikiVoyage.
Conclusion / Next steps
So far, assuming that our health continues to stay good, we seem to be on a good path. We will be snowbirding in the sunny “Costa del Sol” of Spain in Mediterranean for three months, which is the maximum their Visa will allow. This is an experiment to experience their less busy season, in a “warm” winter season. Probably take a side trip to Morocco after that, and maybe explore some of the southern USA before summer starts.
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